Every week, when I go on my drive into Kinsale for my big shop, I stare wistfully at the windows of the SVP shop as I glide past. ‘Soon,’ I whisper to myself. Soon, I will be able to rummage and root.
Soon, I will be able to wodge my too-big feet into a pair of shoes that were pre-loved by a lady far more glamorous than me. Soon, I will feel the soft fibres of clothing that has been softened by years of gentle washing and care. Soon, I will be able to rifle through a rack of coats and find a ballgown that would be perfect for wearing to the shops with a pair of runners.
I dream of going to Carrigaline – far outside my 5k – to spend a day perusing the charity shops there. Everyone in the know knows that the ‘burbs are where the real treasures of thrift shopping can be found.
I will begin at one end of the town and end at the bottom and will not stop until each bargain bin has been sifted through. I will not be greedy, I will take my time and assess as I go, applying Marie Kondo to my purchasing. I will only buy what brings me joy. Which in my mind’s eye is a lot.
I miss the sensory overload that comes with real-life clothes shopping. Buying things online is too robotic for me. It is too sanitary, too one-size-fits-all. There is no cosy chat with the salesperson, no story attached to the item that you are buying.
Logging on to Asos, there is no human being taking a liking to you and letting you have a little look at the brand new stock, as yet un-merchandised. You won’t find a vintage tea set in the same department as a cashmere jumper on h&m.
I have spent a year in tracksuit bottoms and I am ready to emerge from my cocoon decked out like my spirit animal – Pat Butcher from Eastenders.
My look is wedding guest chic, my material a crumpled shiny viscose or sateen. I will take a shoulder pad and would welcome the comfort of a double-breasted blazer. I am not committed to a heel after twelve months padding around my house barefoot, but if the shoe shines bright enough, I will give it a go.
I want to buy a ‘good’ handbag that still smells of the perfume and Elizabeth Arden Flawless Finish worn by its first owner. I want to find an old shopping receipt in one of the pockets that says “milk for Jim and coins for Mass.” I want to know that in purchasing this precious item, I am carrying on a story.
We have spent a year conforming, obeying, being good. I want to dress like a peacock, draped in swathes of fabric that were worn by strong women before me.
I want to plume my pre-loved feathers and crinkle as I walk. I imagine myself as an old lady version of Lily Allen while doing my shopping. I imagine myself as Pat Butcher, but for 2021. Haggard, slightly grumpy, but ready for anything.